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Wilderness Realty, Inc.

Maine Land Sales Specialists

My Land For Bird Watching

April 3, 2013 by  
Filed under My Maine Land, Real Estate Blog, Recreation Land

Whenever I hear the word “bird watching”, my mind immediately conjures up the vision of Miss Jane; the character on the TV show Beverly Hillbillies, all decked out in khaki complete with a pair of binoculars.  Not only can birdwatching involve scanning tree tops for feathered denizens in the forest but it can also be searching for waterfowl on waterways.

One of my favorite annual “rituals” is to hike down to the river on my property in the spring to see how many different duck species I can spot.  This is a great time of year to watch waterfowl because the males are in full breeding plumage and their coloration is spectacular.  Moreover, for some unknown reason, these aquatic birds are less skittish than other times of the year; one can get quite close to them and observe them preening, feeding and just being ducks.

This past weekend I took a walk down to where my duck blind is located.  The river was free of ice for the first time this year.  Down river I was watching a small group of Common Goldeneyes when I heard a commotion behind me.  Floating in the downstream current was a flock of 14 “fully amped up” male Common Mergansers escorting a one not-so-lonely female.  They were chasing her, chasing each other, flapping their wings, splashing aggressively and making strange grunting/quacking sounds.

Once this assemblage floated well past me, I decided to continue my hike up-river along the trail.  I just went a few steps and a pair of Common Mergansers, this time a drake and hen, came floating towards me in the channel that separates my property from Hemlock Island.  The male was diving while the female was just floating along oblivious to the male’s activity and my presence.  The male got right to the edge of a remnant sheet of ice that was jutting out about 15 feet from the island.  Then suddenly he dove and surfaced in a basketball-size opening in the ice very close to the island shore.  There he was splashing about and then dove back under the ice.  He emerged at the ice’s edge with a 10-12 inch bass held broadside in his bill.  A few shakes with his head and the fish was gulped down head first. 

Afterwards, he seemed a bit distressed and would flap his wings and “stand” in the water; as if to get more comfortable.  Then he would dip his bill in the water a few times then do the “flap stand” again.  This would continue for a couple more sessions and finally he seemed at ease; all the while the female remained nonchalant.  

I have only witnessed these birds catch minnow-size fish.  A Common Merganser is a bit bigger than a Mallard; the bass was a big fish for a duck of this size to swallow whole.  I was amazed by this feat and gained an appreciation for the predatory prowess of this species.